United States Government Land Grants

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Portal:United States Land and Property

The Land Grant Process

Various royal, colonial, state, and federal governments established the first claims to land in what is now the United States. These governments have since sold or given much of this land to individuals. The person who obtains title to the land from the government receives a land grant. (Read more)

Colonial Land

Colonial governments (including England, Spain, Mexico, Russia, and France) issued land grants to settlers in areas that later became part of the United States. In the early colonies, a governor or proprietor could sell land or give it away to soldiers and settlers. Those who immigrated or brought a certain number of immigrants to a colony sometimes received “headright” or similar grants of land as compensation for settling the colony.

Many of these records are now available at the appropriate state archives. The Family History Library has copies of many colonial land records and published indexes. These are described further in the state research outlines and are generally listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [STATE] - LAND AND PROPERTY.

Federal Land

The public domain included most of the land west of the Appalachian Mountains that was obtained by the federal government. After the United States was established, some lands that had been claimed by the colonies were ceded to the federal government. The federal government also obtained land as a result of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the War with Mexico (1846-48), and other means. (Read more)

State Land

The states also granted land. Twenty colonies and states did not cede the unclaimed land in their borders to the federal government when they became part of the United States. These states are known as state-land states and included the original 13 colonies and Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.

The states in the public domain areas who received grants of land from the federal government (as described above) also granted some of this land to individuals.

Each state established land offices to distribute its land, in a manner similar to that of the federal government. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records of some states. These are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under [STATE] - LAND AND PROPERTY. The original documents are usually at the state archives (see the state research outlines for more information).